Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

King Richard the Third's Secretary of State: A son of Jean de Foix, Earl of Kendal?

In 1512 a Thomas Kendall was given licence to go in the suite of Sir Gilbert Talbot (Lord Deputy of Calais jointly with Richard Wingfield) to Calais for a Year. It was Gilbert’s grandfather and uncle that died at Castillon in 1453; and at Castillon Jean de Foix was captured. Gilbert’s father was killed at the Battle of Northampton in 1460, and Jean de Foix was again captured.(Talbot and de Foix were both Lancastrian supporters.) A grandson of Jean de Foix and a grandson of the first John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury would seem to have had a lot in common. So was this Thomas Kendall a son of John Kendall, King Richard’s secretary? If so, then that association is interesting and the following facts would also be relevant.

In 1511 a Holy League was formed against France which included the Habsburgs, Spain and England, Henry concluding in November the Treaty of Westminster to seal his support. In 1513 he invaded France to fight the ‘Battle of the Spurs’ that sent the French Knights flying, but in reality achieved little. One of his principal commanders was Thomas West, Lord De La Warr. His son William West had been in Calais in 1510 gathering information for among others Gilbert Talbot. (Was this the same William West that was granted on 25.3.1520 elements of Charlton property, forfeited by Sir Richard Charlton’s attainder? It was William West’s sister Elizabeth that married Charles Somerset, and his sister Eleanor who married Edward Guildford and was mother to Jane Guildford who married John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.)

Liaising with William West in 1510, was Thomas Spinelly who was the coordinator of diplomatic and intelligence information for both Henry VII and VIII from his Calais base. Spies had been used from time immemorial, but they were evolving into more subtle instruments of information gathering and dispatch through the use of people who were naturally mobile by virtue of their principal activity, servants, merchants, priests, musicians, etc. Alamire, an agent employed by Henry against Richard de la Pole, was a musician and music copyist who signed his letters informing on de la Pole with the musical notation ‘La Mi Re’, and included compositions for the King’s delight. (From: Ian Arthurson – ‘Espionage and Intelligence from wars of roses to Reformation’ (1991)) The Florentine Thomas Spinelly was nephew of the head of one of the largest banking houses in the Low Countries with branches in Bruges and Antwerp. The Medici bank in Lyons was headed by a Spinelly, possibly his brother. Thomas was also intimate with the de Taxis family that ran the postal service for the greater part of northern and central Europe, and they supplied him with digests of news. It was he that controlled many of the spies used against Richard de la Pole.



  1. Since King Richard’s will is of such importance these days in the debate about where he intended to be interred, do you have a source for your statement that he changed his will to appoint his nephew John de la Pole as his successor? Some people argue that we cannot know Richard’s intention in that regard since he left no will, while others are of the opinion that Richard, like other medieval men going to battle, certainly left a will, but that it was probably destroyed by Tudor’s men after Bosworth.

    1. Thank you for this. I do not have a primary source but secondary sources are many eg:
      William Toone’s The Chronological Historian (1828) Vol 1 p.110
      James Anderson’s A genealogical History of the House of Yvery (1742) Vol.1 p294
      The Works of Francis Bacon (edition 1854) Vol 1 p.739
      King Richard’s appointment of John de la Pole as his successor is what gave rise to the claims of the ‘White Rose’ please see Desmond Seward’s book of that title.

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